Discussions in Washington about reducing or eliminating the charitable tax deduction have caused concern among some local clergy and faith-based nonprofit leaders.
However, many who head up churches and charitable agencies said changes to the charitable deduction will not likely deter most people who give out of a deep sense of faith and benevolence.
“When our folks give, for most of them it is not the force that is driving them,” the Rev. Walter Mullican, senior pastor of Portland Avenue Baptist Church, 1301 N Portland Ave., said of the tax deduction.
“The Bible speaks about us not giving by compulsion. It says God loves a cheerful giver.”
The charitable deduction, which dates to 1917, would cost the government about $250 billion over the next five years, and proposals for reform vary. Proposals to cap deductions may be part of any compromise between Democrats and Republicans. How big a factor that tax deduction is in the decision to give to charity generally is subject for debate.
Like Mullican, the Rev. Rick Stansberry, pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church, 8005 Dorset Drive in Nichols Hills, said many people give generously to their churches and faith-based charities as a way of living out their faith beliefs. But Stansberry said he thinks reducing the charitable deduction could still cause donors to give less.
“I think it's something that will hurt all churches and charities,” Stansberry said.
“You'd like to think that people give strictly out of a sense of benevolence and tithing but the tax deduction has been an extra bonus for them for their charity.”
Meanwhile, several faith-based agency leaders said they have been keeping tabs on the charitable tax deduction proposals being bandied about by some of the nation's elected leaders.
“We don't take political positions. We're watching it as closely as we possibly can, just hoping and praying that our overall funding is not impacted,” Rick Denny, executive director of the Jesus House, said. He said the homeless shelter relies on donations from individuals, churches and corporations anything that would affect those giving groups would affect his organization.
Maj. Dan Proctor, area commander of the Salvation Army's Central Oklahoma Area Command, said while no one knows the final effect of the loss of the charitable tax deduction, proposals about altering the deduction should be of concern to all nonprofits.
“The Salvation Army relies greatly on the generosity of our community,” Proctor said. “Donors give to us for a number of reasons, including the allowable deduction. Any loss of funds would compromise the level of assistance we would be able to provide.”
Meanwhile, Robert Kellogg, president and CEO of the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma, said he is aware of the proposals to reduce or eliminate the tax deduction for charitable giving. He said he anticipated that a broad spectrum of tax increases and spending cuts would be considered, given the size of the federal deficit coupled with the ongoing disparity between government spending and revenues.
Kellogg said he would prefer a tax policy that encourages charitable contributions rather than discouraging them, particularly at a time of high unemployment and considerable personal need.
However, he said many people are always going to be motivated by their desire to help others and not how their charitable contributions will help them at tax time.
“Charitable contributions from Christ followers are borne out of their personal desire to be obedient to God, to be a blessing to others as God has blessed them, and to advance the mission and fund the ministries of the churches and faith-based charities they love and are connected to,” Kellogg said.
He said the effect of reducing or eliminating the charitable tax deduction will ultimately be felt by those in need who benefit from the services of charities.
The Associated Press